According to the Woodland Trust, a charity and research organization, the United Kingdom has significantly less wooded areas than their European neighbors. The widespread reduction of plants in recent history has resulted in the loss of animal and plant species, and as communities expand, existing forests are disappearing.
To turn things around, the Woodland Trust and Community Forest Trust have teamed up to establish a new Northern Forest in the United Kingdom. This massive undertaking will plant over 50 million trees and give the local diminishing tree population a much needed boost.
In the process of creating this new forest, the project will connect five smaller community forests including the Mersey Forest, White Rose Forest, South Yorkshire Forest, City of Trees, and HEYwoods. The proposed area is set to follow along the M62 highway and stretch 120 miles from Liverpool to Hull. Along the way, major northern cities such as Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds, and Chester will be able to enjoy the benefits of the new green space.
The new forest is excepted to provide a tranquil space and increased tourism to benefit the millions of people in surrounding the area. According to Paul Nolan, the director of the Mersey Forest, the new trees will also be able to help with 7 million tons of carbon and mitigate flood risk for 190,000 households. The groups behind this initiative estimate that the project will generate over £2 billion for the country’s economy. For the wildlife, there will be more natural habitats for birds and other local species.
The Woodland Trust's Director of Conservation, Austin Brady, said, “A new Northern Forest could accelerate the benefits of community forestry, support landscape scale working for nature, deliver a wide range of benefits, including helping to reduce flood risk, and adapt some of the UK’s major towns and cities to projected climate change.”
As a leading force behind the project, the Woodland Trust has quite a bit of experience in restoring woodlands. As the United Kingdom’s largest woodland conservation charity, they’ve covered about 64,247 acres throughout the area and are focused on helping woodlands bounce back.
While the Woodland Trust has partnered with the Community Forests to create this massive undertaking, the new forest is not a government project and requires significant funding to create. Still, they have the government’s blessing. On January 7th, the British government endorsed the new forest plan and put in nearly £6 million to help the project get off the ground.
Prime Minister Theresa May is passionate about the project, saying, "We’re investing over £3billion in improving air quality, tackling marine pollution by banning harmful microbeads and increasing sentences for animal cruelty to five years."
The Prime Minister went on to explain, "But to create an environment fit for the future we can’t stop there, and that is why we are supporting the creation of this new Northern Forest and will shortly be setting out our ambitious vision to further support the environment and protect its good health for generations to come."
The first trees will be planted this spring, and the project's timeline is expected to span over the next 25 years.